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xanax for dogs

The essentials

  • Xanax may help with dog anxiety — Some research shows that Xanax, a prescription anti-anxiety medication, may help relieve doggie stress.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Xanax for dogs — Xanax is approved for human use but not for dogs. It’s crucial to speak with a veterinarian and be aware of the common side effects of Xanax.
  • There are other ways to treat your dog’s anxiety — Behavior modification through training, safe spaces, and supplements may also help with anxiety relief.

Xanax at a glance

  • Medication type: Benzodiazepines
  • Availability: Prescription
  • FDA approved: Not for pets
  • Common medications: Alprazolam (generic), Niravam, and Xanax XR
  • Life stage: All, but caution should be taken before giving Xanax to senior dogs, pregnant dogs, or dogs diagnosed with liver disease, kidney disease, or glaucoma.

Why use Xanax for dogs?

Xanax is one of several human medications that can provide short-term relief for anxiety disorders. Some veterinarians may prescribe the anti-anxiety drug to dogs for the same reasons, though it is not FDA approved for use with pets. Types of or triggers for dog anxiety include:

  • Separation. Some dogs struggle with anxiety when left alone. Urinating and furniture are common symptoms of separation anxiety.
  • Vet visits. Researchers say alprazolam, the generic form of Xanax, may ease anxiety for dogs or cats before a trip to the vet’s office. But they noted the evidence is limited. 
  • Storms. Loud noises during thunderstorms can be scary for dogs. One study showed that a combination of alprazolam, clomipramine, and behavior modification could help reduce or lower stress during storms.
  • Life changes. Upheavals such as moving or a new pet can be stressful for a dog.
  • Strangers. Some dogs get anxious around unfamiliar people.
  • Night time anxiety. Some dogs get more stressed at night, so a veterinarian may recommend trying Xanax at this time. 

👉 Pet Health insurance may help offset the cost of medications your dog needs. Dog owners who invest in a plan earlier in their pup’s life typically enjoy the most benefits.

Giving your dog Xanax

Dogs should be given Xanax under the close supervision of a veterinarian. First, it is essential to discuss giving your dog Xanax with a veterinarian or a veterinarian behaviorist prior to giving your dog any kind of medication. Veterinarian behaviorists, in particular, are well-versed in medications, drug classes, and drug interactions, and they can use their knowledge of both behavior and medication in order to create a behavior modification plan for your pup. Both veterinarians and veterinarian behaviorists can give you full insight into the pros and cons of giving your dog Xanax. They can also give you safe dosing instructions. 

Different forms of Xanax

Xanax comes in the form of a tablet or liquid solution. Xanax is a brand name for the drug, which goes by a few other names: alprazolam, Niravam, and Xanax XR. Every pet metabolizes drugs at different speeds. It’s best to give the medication 30 to 60 minutes before a triggering event, but Dr. Irish says every pet metabolizes medication at different rates. Xanax may provide some relief for pets within 30 to 60 minutes. It may take an hour or two for others. 

If it’s a pill, consider giving it with food or a treat instead of on an empty stomach. It may help your dog take the pill and prevent vomiting. If giving a liquid solution, it’s best to put the appropriate dose into a syringe and give it to your dog.

Regardless of how you give the drug, remain calm and give your pet lots of love and praise.

👉 Dr. Irish notes that faster-acting medication, such as Sileo, is a better bet if weather reports call for storms. Sileo is FDA-approved.

Using the right dosage of Xanax for dogs

You or a family member may have been prescribed Xanax for an anxiety disorder. It’s essential that owners of anxious dogs refrain from giving their furry friends any human medications before consulting with a veterinarian. A vet is the best resource for figuring out the most effective treatment for your pet, including dosing requirements for anti-anxiety medications. They may start your dog on a low dose. If there’s no improvement, the vet may increase to the next dose.

The baseline recommendation is 0.02 to 0.05 milligram (mg) to kilogram (kg) of dog weight.

Weight Dose
27 to 34 pounds (lbs) (12.25 to 15.42 kg) 0.25 to 0.78 mg
35 to 50 lbs (15.88 to 22.68 kg) 0.32 to 1.13 mg
51 to 69 lbs (23.13 to 31.30 kg) 0.46 to 1.57 mg
70 to 100 lbs (31.75 to 45.46 kg) 0.64 to 2.27 mg
101 to 130 lbs. (45.81 to 58.97 kg) 0.92 to 2.95 mg

👉The range for high enough doses will vary based on weight and your dog’s need. It’s essential to only administer Xanax under the careful supervision of a veterinary medicine provider.

Xanax side effects and interactions

Xanax can cause adverse reactions, ranging from serious side effects to more manageable ones. Here’s what to look out for when giving your dog Xanax.

  • Sedation. Benzodiazepine tranquilizers like Xanax have a sedative effect. Don’t be surprised if your pup is drowsy.
  • Increased hunger. Xanax can be an appetite stimulant, so your dog may seem hungrier than usual.
  • Discoordination. Dogs can sometimes have trouble walking when using Xanax. If your dog is a bit wobbly or struggling to walk in a straight line, it may be because of Xanax.
  • More troubling behavior changes. In rare cases, a pet will display increased anxiety, aggression, or agitation. These changes are cause for concern, and you should speak with a veterinarian. 

Always discuss any drugs or supplements your pup is taking with your vet. Some drugs that may negatively interact with Xanax include:

  • Amiodarone
  • Antacids
  • Antihypertensive agents 
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
  • CNS depressant agents 
  • Digoxin
  • Fluoxetine
  • Fluvoxamine 
  • Hepatic enzyme inducers 
  • Hepatic enzyme inhibitors
  • Ifosfamide 
  • Lithium
  • Nondepolarizing neuromuscular blockers
  • Phenytoin 
  • Rifampin
  • Theophylline/aminophylline
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Valproic acid
  • Divalproex
  • Yohimbine

Overdosing information and symptoms

Too much Xanax can be dangerous to pets. It’s essential to follow the dosing guidelines given by your vet and monitor your pet for signs of overdosing. One study of accidental ingestion of Xanax showed symptoms of overdose include: 

  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Depression
  • Disorientation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Weakness
  • Tremors 
  • Vocalization
  • Diarrhea 
  • Increased salivation 

These symptoms started 10 to 30 minutes after the dog accidentally ingested Xanax.

 It can be stressful trying to differentiate a normal side effect from an overdose. When in doubt, call your veterinarian, nearest veterinary emergency hospital, or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888)- 426-4435.

Risk factors associated with Xanax and pets

Xanax can be addictive and is therefore not recommended for daily use or long-term anxiety treatment for humans or dogs. If used for too long, a dog can experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability and fatigue when they do not take it. Large doses can trigger a drop in blood pressure, limb weakness, and collapse. Xanax is not recommended for pregnant dogs or dogs with liver disease, kidney disease, or glaucoma. 

Though Xanax is supposed to help with anxiety, it may have the opposite effect. This side effect is called a paradoxical reaction, and you should speak to your vet about stopping use if your dog exhibits hyper-excitability and other symptoms of increased anxiety. 

Keep Xanax in a safe space out of reach of other pets and children. The anti-anxiety medication should only be used for the animal for which it has been prescribed.

👉 Seek immediate attention if an unintended person or animal ingests any of your pet’s medications.

Alternatives to Xanax for dogs

You may have some concerns about giving your dog Xanax, or perhaps your pet has a condition that prevents them from taking it. There are other ways to treat anxiety disorders and stress in dogs.

  • Other medications. Other anxiety medications like Trazadone or Sertraline may be a better fit for your pet based on their personal health history. 
  • Supplements. The FDA does not regulate calming supplements like CBD and Valerian root or CBD oil. It’s worth discussing with your vet. The AVMA has indicated that CBD may have some anti-anxiety benefits. 
  • Thunder shirts. These heavy shirts wrap your dog in a giant hug and can soothe them, particularly during events with loud noises like fireworks or storms.
  • Safe space. Create a quiet place for your pet with their favorite toys and blanket, such as a crate. They can retreat to this space when stressful situations arise.
  • Training. Consider working with a professional trainer to identify your pet’s triggers. Then, you can create a plan to reduce your dog’s stress through behavior modification.

Frequently asked questions

Is Xanax safe for my dog?

Xanax is a prescription medication that may be safe for your dog. More caution is needed for dogs with kidney or liver problems or glaucoma. Pregnant and senior dogs also require extra caution. Always speak with your vet before giving your dog any medication, and be on the lookout for any potential side effects. Be sure to tell them about any other drugs or supplements your pup takes.

Why do they prescribe dogs Xanax?

Veterinarians may prescribe Xanax for dogs struggling with anxiety disorders or situational anxiety. Some anxiety triggers include life changes, loud noises, and separation from their owners. 

What can I do to ease my dogs’ fear of loud noises?

Xanax is one course of treatment for dogs with fears of loud noises. Others include creating a safe space, thunder shirts, and behavior modification.

What could be causing my dog to constantly lick her paws?

Excessive paw licking is one of several symptoms of anxiety in dogs. Ask yourself: have they undergone a major life change, such as a move? Did you recently add another pet to the home? Could it be separation anxiety? Excessive licking could also be a sign of pain or infection. It’s best to consult with your vet.